Saturday, 30 November 2013

Caygill and Anderson fire Town to crucial Norton victory

By Ricky Butler at The Calvert Stadium 

Highlights of this match are available here

TOWN withstood a strong second half Norton & Stockton rally to seal a vital victory in this promotion six-pointer at the Calvert Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone behind midway through a high-tempo first half to a strike from Nicky Martin, Peter Mulcaster's side fought back to lead at the break thanks to goals from Graham Caygill and Colin Anderson.

The second half saw the Ancients throw everything at Town but a combination of strong defending and assured goalkeeping from Jordan Aspinall in his final appearance before returning to the Academy ensured Town held on for a vital three points.

"That was probably the hardest game we have had all season," said a delighted Mulcaster at the final whistle. "I thought we shaded the first half if I am honest and the second half they must have had 75% of the play in our half.

"But defenders have to play well and they did today. They were absolutely tremendous. I don't want to take anything away from our lads but I think a draw might have been a fair result."

Norton, who had former Town man Marcus Laing in midfield and another ex-Northallerton player, Gary Mitchell, in attack, began the day one place and one point ahead of Town in the top six so it was a crucial game for both teams.

Mulcaster was able to welcome back Mark Hemingway and Danny Shoulder to the back four in place of Stephen Banks and Craig Toman, while in the continued absence of Dale Elgie, Darren Kokes continued in midfield.

The game started at a frenetic pace with both sides looking to gain the early initiative. Anderson and Kokes both came close for Town with headed opportunities inside the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end John Seaton saw an effort blocked by James Howlett.

But it was the visitors, who were unbeaten in 9 games, a run in which they had kept 7 clean sheets, that grabbed a 24th minute lead. Christian Selby's deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area beat Aspinall but came back off the left hand upright straight into the path of Martin who had a simple tap-in.

However, the lead lasted barely a minute. The Norton defence only managed to half-clear a free kick from Gav Parkin and when Kokes lofted the ball back into the penalty area, Caygill brought it down before firing into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

And the turn around was complete six minutes later. This time it was a corner from Parkin that was not cleared and after first Grant Hickman and then Danny McLachlan had headed for goal, Anderson was on hand to finish from 6 yards - his 13th goal of the season.

It might have been 3-1 before the break when Caygill seized on a poor clearance from Norton goalkeeper David Knight but after beating Matthew Bell, he fired over from a tight angle.

The second half became a war of attrition for Town as Norton threw everything they had at them. The visitors were close to an equaliser within three minutes of the restart when Martin rounded Aspinall but Hickman got back to make an heroic block on the line with his chest.

Michael Jamieson came even closer soon after with a free kick that deceived the entire Town defence and Aspinall was only just able to push the ball onto the crossbar.

The remainder of the match saw a Norton aerial bombardment but with Hickman and Shoulder commanding and Aspinall brave, Town were able to hang on to claim a very important victory.

"The second half was constant pressure all the time," said Mulcaster. "But Taffy, who played his last game for us today, has been magnificent and he had a great game again today.

"His positional sense is good, his talking, when you can understand him, is good so perhaps it was that which denied them too many opportunities.

"I signed a new goalkeeper today, James Howarth, who has had a spell with Blyth Spartans and recently had a trail with Brentford and he will be in the sticks next week. I have also signed Richard Dacombe from Billingham Town so we are looking a lot stronger now."

Mulcaster takes his troops to Tow Law Town next weekend for their penultimate game before Christmas.

1. Aspinall - Has been magnificent in his short spell in the team and went out with another commanding display. 9/10.

2. Shoulder - A typically committed performance. No quarter asked or given. 9/10

3. Hemingway - Back after missing the midweek game through illness and was not 100% fit but it did not show. Another superb display from the left back. 8/10

4. Hickman - Back to best after the midweek blip. Relished the battle with Mitchell and his clearance off the line proved crucial. Man of the match. 9/10

5. Howlett - Recovered from a shaky start to play a full part in what was a superb second half defensive performance. 7/10

6. Parkin -  The skipper once again led from the front and ensured that Town did not buckle under the second half onslaught. Came out on top in the battle with former team-mate Laing. Created both goals with his trademark set-piece mastery. 8/10

7. Anderson - Scored what proved to be the winner and produced another all-action display. Did his fair share of defending in the second half but was still a great outlet down the right. Ran Hickman close for the man of the match award. 9/10

8. Kokes - Covered every blade of grass and worked tirelessly to keep Norton at bay. 8/10

9. Caygill - Is developing into the complete centre forward. Defended from the front and scored another great goal. 9/10

10. McLachlan - No one works harder than Macca but it is not really happening for him in front of goal at the moment. Snatched at a first half effort but did not hide after that. The goals will soon flow again if he can regain his confidence. 7/10

11. Stevens - Wingers are not meant to work as hard as young Mikey and while his final ball can sometime let him down, his pace and energy more than compensate. 7/10

12. Holliday - Unused. N/A

NORTON & STOCKTON ANCIENTS -  Knight, O'Brien, Bell, Lambert, Mulligan, Laing, Selby, Seaton, Mitchell, Martin, Jamieson. SUBS - Joseph, Gaston, Woodhouse, O'Riordan, Hawkins.

REFEREE - K. Beckett


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